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Dublin: 10 °C Thursday 21 March, 2019
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Jack Byrne ignoring 'last chance saloon' talk after promising Rovers debut

The 22-year-old Dubliner helped the Hoops to see off Waterford last night at the RSC.

Jack Byrne arrives Jack Byrne of Shamrock Rovers arriving at the RSC last night. Source: Ken Sutton/INPHO

THE CONDITIONS AT the RSC may not have been conducive to getting maximum yield from a player of Jack Byrne’s ilk, but they didn’t prevent the 22-year-old Dubliner from making an impact on his Shamrock Rovers debut last night.

The quality of Byrne’s dead-ball execution was particularly exceptional, although Rovers had been unable to capitalise on that until the game’s final passage of play.

Ironically, Byrne felt the corner-kick that assisted Ethan Boyle’s 92nd-minute winning goal against Waterford was the worst set-piece delivery he struck all evening.

“I was just happy to affect the game,” he told The42. “I scuffed that one at the end, to be honest, but that’s how it goes sometimes. The ones in the first half were probably much better. I was just delighted that we ended up getting a goal from it. What an unbelievable feeling.”

Byrne’s jubilant celebration in the aftermath of Boyle’s goal belied his status as a Hoops newcomer. The last-gasp winner sparked mayhem in the away end, with supporters encroaching on to the pitch after watching their side come from 1-0 down at half-time to secure a valuable victory on the opening night of the season.

A 22nd-minute free-kick from Kevin Lynch put Waterford ahead in a game which was played amid strong winds and bouts of heavy rain. Rovers were level on 54 minutes thanks to Aaron Greene, before Boyle caught Byrne’s “scuffed” corner on the volley to win the game.

Jack Byrne Jack Byrne: 'What an unbelievable feeling' Source: Ken Sutton/INPHO

“I wouldn’t play for any club if I wasn’t going to give 100%,” said Byrne, who joined Rovers in December after a short spell with Kilmarnock. “I certainly wouldn’t let the management staff here down. They’re really good people. I definitely wouldn’t let them down with effort.

“I’m over the moon after that. It was important for us to come down here and show everyone that we’re together and we’re ready for a fight. It’s a great feeling. The fans getting involved with us at the end as well, that’s what football is all about. It was brilliant.

“We’ve been through hell and back in pre-season. It was really long and tough. We stuck together out there, worked our socks off and I think our quality shone through. We were unfortunate to be 1-0 down at half-time, but this is a really strong group.” 

Operating mostly from a right-sided midfield position, Byrne showed some touches of brilliance, producing glimpses of the potential that once had him marked out as a player with a bright future during his time at Manchester City.

In spite of such early promise, the career of the gifted playmaker has yet to take flight. A productive loan spell at Dutch side Cambuur suggested that he was on the right track, but subsequent moves to Blackburn Rovers, Wigan Athletic and Oldham Athletic didn’t go according to plan.

Now that he’s back on home soil, the performances of the former Ireland U21 international will be under a microscope. Last night’s outing will certainly go down as a positive start.

Jack Byrne and Shane Duggan Byrne tangles with Waterford's Shane Duggan. Source: Ken Sutton/INPHO

Onlookers have speculated as to the reasons why a player of Jack Byrne’s calibre has found himself in the League of Ireland at such a young age. What isn’t in dispute is his ability to conjure up what few Irish players can when there’s a ball at his feet.

“I don’t really care what people say or think,” he said. “I’ve been there before. People are always going to question what I do. I don’t mind. Everybody in football has an opinion, whether it’s good or bad. I’ve learned to make decisions for myself now. I’ll do whatever makes me happy.

“It’s all down to me now. I need to just keep cracking on and keep listening to the coaching staff — [Stephen] McPhail, Glenn [Cronin], Darren Dillon and the gaffer [Stephen Bradley]. I’m grateful to them for having me in here. Hopefully I can keep playing well.”

He added: “I don’t think of this as a turning point or anything. People keep saying it’s last chance saloon for me but I don’t see it like that. I just see it as another step in my development. I’m still learning my trade and working hard to improve. I’m 22 years of age.”

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Paul Dollery

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